Fiction > Montesquieu > Persian Letters
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Montesquieu (1689–1755).  Persian Letters.  1901.
 
Letter LIII
Zelis to Usbek, at Paris
 
NO passion was ever stronger or more vehement than that of Cosrou, the white eunuch, for my slave Zelida; he has asked her in marriage with such persistence, that I can no longer refuse him. And why should I object, when her mother does not, and since Zelida herself seems satisfied with the idea of this mock union, and the empty shadow which it offers her?  1
  What does she want with this wretched creature? She is marrying jealously personified, a husband who is no husband; who will only exchange his coldness for an impotent despair; who, by perpetually recalling the memory of what he was, will but remind her of what he no longer is; who, always ready to possess, but never possessing, will forever deceive himself and her, keeping her constantly alive to the wretchedness of her condition.  2
  And then! to be always in dreams and fancies; to live only in imagination; to be always on the threshold, and never in the abode, of pleasure; languishing in the arms of impotence, responding, not to happy sighs, but to vain regrets!  3
  How one ought to despise a man of that kind, made only to guard and not to own! I seek love, and cannot find it!  4
  I speak to you freely, because you love my artlessness, and prefer my frankness and amorous disposition to the affected modesty of my companions.  5
  I have heard you say a thousand times that eunuchs do enjoy a certain pleasure with women, which we know nothing of; that nature compensates them for their loss, having means with which to amend their unfortunate condition; that one may cease to be a man, but not to feel desire; and that in that state one acquires a third sense, and exchanges, as it were, one pleasure for another.  6
  If that be so, Zelida will have less to complain of. It is something to live with people who are not, after all, so miserable. Send me your instructions in the matter, and let me know if you wish the marriage to take place in the seraglio. Farewell.

  THE SERAGLIO AT ISPAHAN, the 5th of the moon of Chalval, 1713.
  7
 
 
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